My fave reads, 2020
I don’t know where to start with talking about reading in the year 2020. I had a brilliant start. I was absolutely ripping through books. And then. The world ground to a halt, and so did my brain. I think some people found that the pandemic made for good reading, because there was simply nothing else to do. And while it was true that there was not much to do, and that reading seemed the obvious choice, I simply could not do it, except in fits and starts.
But I did it anyway. Every night, before bed, I attempted to read. Whether I got through 1 page or 20 pages or 100, I kept at it. Ultimately, my speed picked up again as my brain adjusted to the new pandemic normal. I ended up reading 155 books in 2020, which was exactly on target for what I expected to read. I know that if it had been a “normal” year, I would have read far more than 155 books. To think of the books I would have gotten to…but I’m proud of the fact that I kept at it.
Here is the list of 20 books that made reading worth it in 2020.
Books that Didn’t Come Out in 2020 but that I Read in 2020
I read a good bit of backlist over the course of any year, but I dove into backlist with a hitherto unexpected glee. I think it was an attempt to just read SOMETHING, and end the drought.
- Such a Fun Age came out at the very end of 2019, and it was one of those rare books that earned every bit of hype it got.
- The End of Policing was of course topical; I read it during the summer of unrest, and it changed the way I think about so much.
- Padma Lakshmi’s memoir was unexpectedly worth savoring. I really appreciated how frank she was.
- Cherokee America didn’t get enough attention when it did come out; it was masterful. Straight-up fiction, with a unique structure and just beautiful prose.
Really Really Great Nonfiction
I really savor learning from books, which is why I read so much nonfiction. I’m not ranking these books (which would have been nearly impossible anyway), but I secretly have been thinking that one of these is my top book of 2020. I want to push it into peoples’ hands, and tell them how much I loved it, and how lovely it is.
- I love watching sports. Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back is attempt to reckon with some of the wrongs in the sports world, and I thought it was nuanced and great.
- You Never Forget Your First is a mini-biography of George Washington. You’re not going to get a point-by-point accounting of his life, but a reckoning with what his life meant for America.
- Caste, by the Isabel Wilkerson (who also wrote the absolutely stunning The Warmth of Other Suns) is a tougher read than some of the others in this category, but it’s well-worth your time. I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more attention.
- Lifting As We Climb is aimed at teens, but it taught me SO much about the fight for Black women to get the vote. I am so glad I read it.
- (And my secret #1) Nobody Will Tell You This But Me was simply one of the best reads I can remember in a long time. It made me cry, so if you’re at all susceptible to crying….grab the tissues.
Romance Novels That Made Me Swoon
More than ever, I found escaping into romance novels to be a thing I craved. I feel like I read SO MANY good ones too. (I read some not great ones too, but that’s the way it’s gonna be when you read a lot of anything!)
- I compared Girl Gone Viral to Schitt’s Creek in my review of it–a lovely world where people love one another and take care of one another and their differences aren’t the story. (Also the hero was dreamy.)
- Take a Hint, Dani Brown is just cuuuuuute. I loved the chemistry between the two main characters. (Also the hero was dreamy.)
- You Had Me at Hola was FUN. I think the contrasts between the two characters was played beautifully by the author. Just loved it.
- 40-Love. What can I say about this book? It might be my favorite romance I’ve ever read, because it felt like I was seeing myself in a romance for the first time.
- And another book by the same author as above, Spoiler Alert. Very cute and very steeped in online fandom, so if that’s something you’re into, you’ll love this.
- Headliners is by my favorite romance author that no one knows about. Lucy Parker’s books have been indie-pubbed, so they’re harder to find. But oh my goodness, they’re so so so good.
Fiction (Including Mystery, Fantasy and Juvenile–Which I Put Here Because There Aren’t Enough in Those Areas To Have Their Own Section)
And here it is, everything else that I really loved. Some of these books got lots of attention and hype; one was picked by a celebrity for her book club. One is a book that came out when I was a freshman in high school. One is the latest entry in my favorite mystery series ever. The commonality with all of them? I loved them, and I want more people to love them.
- Catherine, Called Birdy came out in 1994. It’s shelved in our Juvenile Fiction section (for middle graders), but I enjoyed it as much as any adult historical fiction I’ve ever read. It’s a book about a young woman during medieval times, in England. Birdy’s journey is so interesting, and the book is SO well-written.
- Such a Fun Age is one of those super-hyped books. Reese Witherspoon chose it for her book club, and the early reviews were pretty glowing. It held up to that, for me. It’s not a perfect book, but it felt like a perfect book for January 2020.
- The House in the Cerulean Sea isn’t a very subtle book; sometimes it bashes you over the head with what it’s trying to tell you. But it was charming and sweet, and I adored the world the author built. I can’t wait to read the next TJ Klune book in this vein.
- The Vanishing Half is super-hyped book #2. And honestly, it 100% earned every accolade it got. I loved this book. I thought it started a little slow, but when it got going, it REALLY got going. I loved it. Just loved it.
- All the Devils Are Here is the 16th entry in Louise Penny’s Gamache mystery series. It’s one of my favorite series of all time, in any genre. I love Gamache so much that I would follow Penny wherever she takes him, but taking him to Paris was very smart and very, very satisfying.
- Mother Land is a book I wish more people were talking about. It’s extremely quietly lovely, and centers on two women with very, very different ideas about how to live life. I found it so moving. It won’t knock your socks off, but my goodness, it’s beautiful.